One thing I seem to get asked about a lot is sleeping bags. I suppose that’s inevitable, I’m a well known kit-junkie and apart from a tent and a pack they’re the most expensive items most people carry.
The trouble is, for that same reason, I’ve not got that many! Well okay technically I have four. But for ten years of buying proper bags it’s quite restrained (I’m discounting ones bought for LB and of course all the earlier ones as not worth thinking about!)
So, more than any other posting this is “in my opinion” and it’s one that I’m hoping won’t cause a ruckus…
So, if I was buying a bag, what would I buy?
PHD, Peter Hutchinson Designs. As far as I’m concerned they make the best bags. Others are very, very comparable. Rab look excellent. I hear very good things indeed about Western Mountaineering and Montbell. There are others that you may think even better (that’s what the comments section is for!). But from what I’ve actually seen and used it’s PHD for me.
We both have minimus bags. They worked fine with it just above freezing on a weekend in snowy Snowdonia as long was we wore duvet jackets and extra clothes (I have a PHD minimus – top class jacket). The bags certainly wouldn’t have been enough on their own. The alternative was to take LB’s Hispar and my ME Iceline. They are both wonderfully warm (rated to -30C) but they’re also bulky and quite heavy so we were very glad that particular experiment worked out.
If money is an issue – try the Alpkit Pipedreams. But for me, not the Skyehigh range – less lofty down makes them heavy. In fact beware of any down below 750 fill power – it’s false economy in my opinion (more on that below).
Okay so here’s the potentially controversial bit: I reckon with Alpkit you get a good 90% of what you’ll see from PHD. I feel rather sad to see PHD so undercut but maybe I’m being silly about that and I should just accept that it’s the commercial reality of the situation. I’d better make clear that I do like Alpkit and have a lot of respect for the guys that run it. And I know of at least five bags bought from them as a result of my recommendation! And for balance; I know of at least that many from PHD too.
So, Alpkit, very good but I’d always go for the PHD option for the main summer and winter bags.
Bear in mind that a down bag has an expected life of around 25 years+ so any expense now can be amortised across that time. Conversely any expense spared now you’ll pay for in terms of weight carried for many, many, many days. In ten years will you really look back and think “I’m glad I saved that £100”?
Of course, with technology improving all the time, who’s to say we won’t all be using helium filled synthetic bags weighing a few tens of grams in ten years? For now, I’m assuming not.
There are tons of others out there – you can spend days making a sleeping bag choice! These are just the ones that I’d consider personally.